My post-election counsel to my American friends: Take a deep breath and take a long-term view. This too will pass. America has now elected 45 presidents and less than a handful of them have been statesmen and world leaders. Yet, America has survived and prospered (most of the time). Let’s keep in mind that a prospering and prosperous America has never meant that all American citizens were prospering.
Let’s also acknowledge that, had the election gone the other way, we would be lamenting as well. In fact, it is probably a good thing that the Clintons don’t get a second turn in the White House and that the election defeat almost certainly spells an end to the Clinton dominance of the Democratic Party. The Clintons now go the way of the Bush’ and that is a good thing, because the last thing American politics needs is dynasty building.
Nevertheless, the American people pulled off an astonishing act on November 8, 2016. They defied conventional wisdom, changing demographics, polls and pundits and elected a man who has all attributes of a pied piper but, on paper, zero credentials to qualify him for the toughest and most influential job in America. They have done a lot more that they almost certainly will come to regret:
1. They have elected a septuagenarian to lead the nation and the world
2. They have elected a Congress that consists for 72% of representatives of the baby-boomer generation and older and for 1% of Millennials
3. They have diminished some of the checks and balances by putting the same party in charge of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives
4. Forty-two percent of them, while eligible to vote, stayed home
5. They have left it to the Electoral College to decide the election in deviation of the popular vote.
The democratic process and the constitution require that we respect the outcome delivered at the polls. It is undeniably true that eight years of conventional republican management under Bush and eight more years of conventional democratic government under Obama have done nothing to solve America’s most urgent problems brought to the fore in this ugly election campaign: an underperforming economy, the glaring inequality and the unease about race and immigration. So, you can’t blame the electorate for seeking salvation from outside of the political establishment. By doing so, they gave themselves two chances. First you have to accept the possibility that Trump has indeed the answers required to turn the battleship around. He has defied the conventional wisdom at every turn of this election campaign and he may do so again. He certainly has put everything, including his brand and his reputation, on the line to deliver on his promise of a miraculous resurrection of the American experiment. Yet, if he fails in this attempt, the fury of the deprived has a good chance of reaching revolutionary proportions, which may blow up the whole existing political construct. It may have to come to this. Real change is normally not accepted until the pain caused by the status quo exceeds the pain caused by the change. I think we are getting close to that point.
If nothing else comes about under the Trump presidency, he will be able to take credit for having shaken up the Beltway and, like a human earthquake, having lifted both major parties off their foundations. The question is if Trump’s courtship with the deprived, particularly the white underclass, will prove to have been just a campaign ploy or become a strategic underpinning of his administration and a serious attempt at spreading the wealth and reducing the disturbing level of inequality that has resulted from globalization, the technological revolution and an inadequate government response to the changing economic and social landscape.
I have great concerns about many Trump statements made during his campaign. And I condemn him for playing on voters’ fears and bestial instincts with his inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants in general. I am inclined to take a man by his word and his word has been hateful, disrespecting of American values and, more often than not, misleading or outright incorrect.
Yet, already in the immediate aftermath of his electoral victory, Trump has retracted from many of his harshest positions. Just listen to his praise for Hillary Clinton in response to her concession call and his professed respect for president Obama following the first transition meeting between the two. It made me tweet: “will the real president-elect please stand up”. I find it utterly disturbing when you can’t take a man by his word. How can you vote for someone who will say one thing to get elected but without compunction will say the opposite the next day? But the voters have chosen to give him a chance and we should respect that. So, let me put in my five cents worth:
“Mr. Trump, I assume with no hesitation that now that you have been elected you want to be a most successful President. I know that you are not seeking and probably don’t want my advice. But I want you to be successful so that America can get back on track and so I counsel you to use your new office to implement the following policy initiatives:
1. Push a complete tax overhaul with the intent to simplify, stimulate investment and mitigate inequality.
2. Push global free and fair trade while protecting the inevitable domestic victims from the ill effects of globalization by means of income protection and re-education.
3. Adopt the Common Good stance on regulation and facilitate a broad infrastructure investment.
4. Put the American fiscal house in order.
5. Get the Congress to help you implement your agenda.
The system is not rigged. The People have spoken. They are now expecting to see results.”